Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Warm, perfect zippers, comfortable hood, versatile.
Cons: Difficult hood pull cords, very expensive.
Best Uses: Alpine skiing, ice and alpine climbing.
The Arcteryx Venta SV 's balanced fit, near perfect features, and high performance make it one of the most versatile softshells we've tested and winner of our Top Pick Award. A Gore Windstopper membrane is completely windproof and highly water resistant. Strategic face fabrics balance weight and durability and mapped sections of thin fleece line the interior. The Venta SV is best for active pursuits in cold weather. It's one of only two softshells we've tested that work well for downhill skiing. A simple design and sleek lines allow the jacket to also function well in urban environments.
Our testers prefer the Venta SV to the Venta MX for alpine skiing, but testers that climb and ski prefer the Venta MX. Check out our Softshell Jacket Review to compare this jacket to the others tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Arcteryx Venta SV represents the ultimate in performance, versatility, and styling. The jacket is artfully crafted with an attention to detail that makes most other softshells look infantile and sloppy. The Venta SV has three different weights of interior fleece that maximize warmth and breathability. This jacket is warmer than the Arcteryx Venta MX and not as warm as the Outdoor Research Lodestar and Patagonia Northwall. It's best for high output activities in cold days. The extra insulation also allow it to work well for lower output activities like walking around town.
The overall combination of different materials provides the water resistance and warmth needed for skiing and the breathability and features required for ice and alpine climbing. This ties with the Beyond Clothing Cold Fusion as the most versatile softshell we've tested.
The Venta SV is equipped with the most elegant features of any softshell tested. Two elevated hand pockets lie above a backpacks hip belt and a harness, large pit zips provide instantaneous ventilation, an interior zippered pocket stores a key or ID, and the hood is one of only a few softshells that's comfortable and non-restrictive when worn over a helmet. In general, we find pit zips to be difficult to open and close with one hand. This is not the case with the Venta SV, which has zippers that slide fast and easy with one hand. The color we tested, Big Sky, has blue zippers with complimentary colored (orange) pull-tabs that are easy to see and are attractive. The Venta SV is also unique in that is has a drop hood (a two-inch collar keeps your neck warm when the hood is not up and is unnoticeable when it is), which we find to be better for skiing than for climbing.
The Venta SV is arguably the best looking softshell on the market. (An independent panel of seven judges rated all the softshells tested based on their appearance.) Unlike others (Mountain Hardwear Dragon and Alchemy, for example), the Venta SV has a simple and refined style with clean lines. It looks good when its snowing, when its blowing 60 mph, or when youre walking downtown. Some people spend thousands of dollars on fashion clothing that looks good but serve no practical purpose. This jacket crushes most of the competition in both performance and aesthetics.
Arcteryx could make several improvements to this shell. (1) the hood pull cords can't be adjusted with one hand from the outside of the jacket. You must unzip a pocket and pull the cord there. We find this annoying and inferior to the hood on the Arcteryx Alpha SV hardshell, which positions the adjustment cords on the exterior for easy access. (2) The Venta SV lies relatively close to a hardshell. It's not as breathable as many other softshells, which make it poorly suited to cario endurance workouts like running and cross-country skiing. On the other hand, it's additional weather protection make it more versatile than other softshells because it performs better in high winds and precipitation conditions. (3) The comparatively warm insulation can make this too hot for some activities. This is best for active pursuits in cold weather or less active pursuits (alpine skiing) in a variety of weather conditions.
Alpine skiing, ice and alpine climbing on cold days.
Top-tier performance and top-tier pricing.
— Max Neale
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Most recent review: February 20, 2014
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